The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Saturday, May 21, 2005

10 THINGS I HAVE NEVER DONE: The ten things I’ve never done craze is sweeping the blogosphere these days, and since I think, as you may have gathered, that everyone is entitled to hear my opinion on just about everything whether I know what I am talking about or not, I have decided to do a list of my own, thereby proving once again that I am a prodigious catcher of ships that have already sailed, a wonderful closer of barn doors after the horse has bolted, and a great jumper onto bandwagons that have already pulled away from the curb. I also tend to repeat myself a lot.

10. I have never bought a commemorative plate. I don’t think I would buy a commemorative plate, not from any animus towards people who do, and I certainly do not think that any social or moral opprobrium should attach itself to the buying and collecting of commemorative plates as such; I just don’t understand why anyone would buy plates they won’t use to remember an event that probably wasn’t worth commemorating in the first place. Charles and Diana? You may have the plates, but Diana is gone, may she rest in peace, and the marriage ran into the deer on life’s highway years before that, and now Charles is married to his horse, and you still have the commemorative plates from 1981. A word to the wise: you’ll save a fortune in paper plates if you use the commemoratives. Trust me on this.

9. I have never coached a woman in childbirth. Over the course of many years I have noticed that as a general rule, and you really should avoid labeling some things as general rules, since general rules, as a general rule, tend to have more cracks in them than a fat man’s toilet seat, but as a general rule women will sit still and do their absolute level best to be polite at social gatherings while men yak away about sports, work, and all the other things that guys like to yak away about, something that men do not thank women enough for, I think, but that there’s no faster way for two women to clear a room of men than to talk about childbirth. Let one woman mention to another that Mrs. So-and-So from down the block spent twenty-two hours in labor with her third child and every guy in a five block radius will vanish like a crooked accountant facing an audit from the home office, and just as quickly too. Even the guys who’ve coached their wives’ delivery disappear as though reliving the blessed event was just too much for their fragile male psyches to endure. And just as a sidebar here, why is the husband there at all and why is his not getting in everyone’s way called coaching? You take a look at any coach in baseball and what you see is a guy whose paid his dues and spent years playing and coaching teams at either the major or minor league levels; no one would think of hiring a guy who didn’t know a split fingered fastball from a slider to coach a baseball team, but men, who will never give birth, are there in the delivery room telling their wives/girlfriends/significant others how to go about their business as if they knew what in the hell they were talking about. Send the men back to the waiting room and let them stew like they used to.

8. I have never dropped an atomic bomb on Fenway Park, although I would like to; in fact, eliminating the Red Sox once and for all is one of my life’s great ambitions, but one, and it gives me no pleasure to say this, that I will never achieve. One might ask, why the animus; after all, in terms of achievement the Red Sox and the Yankees are not even close. The New York Yankees have won more championships that any other team in the history of organized professional sports, all sports, mind you, not just baseball, whereas in 2004 the Boston Red Sox won their first championship since 1918. That’s right, 1918; only the Chicago Cubs, who last won the World Series in 1908, had a similar record of futility. I think that part of the problem is that the Red Sox are like that stupid fly that keeps dive-bombing your face on your wedding day. Here it is, the most important day of your life, you’re enjoying yourself tremendously, and yet you can’t fully enjoy it because this damn diabolic peske fly will not stop hounding you. It keeps coming at you, trying to get into your eyes, mouth, nose, and the rest of your face and in general trying to ruin the overall tenor of your championship day. The devil had more to do with the events of last year than anyone has let on so far, I think. No team has ever come back from a three game deficit to win in a championship series, and yet the Red Sox did it against the Yankees, and all the while there was a lunar eclipse going on, an astronomical event that blocked the proper working of the Curse. I’m sorry if this offends some people, but there’s no telling me that the city of Boston and all the inhabitants and denizens thereof didn’t collectively sell their soul to Satan for that championship.

7. I have never married, something my mother reminds me of every time I see her. It’s not that I haven’t tried over the years, and no, Mom, I’m not gay, despite what your ex-daughter-in-law said about me; she’s nuts, remember, that’s why she’s your ex-daughter-in-law and not a current and in good standing member of our otherwise happy clan. It’s just that the relationships didn’t work out for one reason or another and now I have arrived at the age where I have to admit that the whole marriage thing has more or less passed me by, unless I import someone from somewhere who will love me for who I am, appreciate me for my many talents, and positively worship my astounding capacity to get them a green card. I like weddings, though, but then I think that most guys like weddings; it’s being married that guys would just as soon skip. After all, on your wedding day, you spend an hour or so in church saying things you don’t really mean (forsaking all others? I mean, really, is this guy kidding or what?) and then go to a great party where everyone except the bride’s mother tells you what a great guy you are and how lucky you are and then you go on vacation with a girl you like a lot and copulate freely with her with the full blessing of society and the church. Her mother will, of course, still think you’re not good enough for her little girl, but then you’re not marrying the mother, are you, and with any degree of luck the mother won’t be going on the honeymoon to watch you get conjugal with her precious little baby. The trouble starts, as near as I can tell, when the couple gets back from the honeymoon. Anyone who’s ever been to an airport knows that the departure lounges have all manner of amenities for the departing passengers, but that there’s next to nothing for the arriving passengers; the airport people want the arriving passengers to get the hell out of the airport forthwith and posthaste, with no loitering or stopping for a decent hamburger, please; you can do that anywhere else except here at the airport. It’s always seemed to me that a divorce lawyer could do a booming business in returning honeymooners right there in the arrivals area. The party’s over now, boy and girl, and if you want out now’s the time to say so, before the parents start hounding you for grandchildren, which will start just as soon as you get home.

6. I have never, in the immortal words of Popeye Doyle in The French Connection, picked my feet in Poughkeepsie. I have picked a lot of things in Poughkeepsie, and I will spare you the gruesome details, but picking my feet is not one of them. I once scratched my ass in Scranton, but that’s hardly the same thing, I think. In any case, there are lots of things to do in Poughkeepsie that don’t require taking off your shoes and socks, but I really can’t think of what they might be right at the moment, but I’m positive that there are activities a-plenty for the well-shod family to indulge in, if you’re interested in that sort of thing.

5. I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the Communist Party, and I am not saying this to hang on to my phony baloney job in Hollywood. I have never been to Hollywood, I don’t have a job there, and I do not ascribe to the theories of Karl Marx in any way. I don’t even know who Karl Marx is. He might have been Groucho’s father, for all I know about him. I did see a picture of him in Life magazine once, and I could tell immediately he was a dangerous un-American radical filled with all sorts of dangerous un-American radical ideas. You can tell that sort of thing from the man’s beard. It’s very clear that he supported putting mayonnaise on French fries and believed that putting ketchup on a hot dog was a sign of psychosexual immaturity, unless it was Sigmund Freud who believed that. I don’t know anything about Freud, either, except that he smoked cigars. Freud had a beard too, now that I think about it, and so does Fidel Castro, so maybe there is a connection between cigars, hot dogs, beards, and Communism that I haven’t heard of yet. Well, it doesn’t make any difference, I suppose; I don’t smoke and I’m not all that fond of hot dogs, either. I prefer pizza, preferably with sausage and pepperoni.

4. I have never bought a lottery ticket. I know, as the commercials say, you’ve got to be in it to win it, but I’ve noticed that most of the people in it don’t win it, either. Maybe it’s just me, but the whole concept of gambling simply goes by me, leaving not a wrack of understanding or ribs behind. If I go to the store and I give them money, I get something in return; if I go to a casino and give them my money, they take it and then try to get me to give them more money, and I don’t get anything from them. My brother the racetrack tout says that they give me a good time while I give them my money, but I seem to be missing the good time; all I know is that I have less money now than I did before I placed the bet and I have nothing tangible to show for it. Then, of course, here in New York the proceeds of the lottery go to supporting education—at least that’s the official story—but if that’s the case, how come my school taxes never seem to go down? Millions of people play the lottery here every day of the week and the vast majority of them don’t win so much as a nickel for all the money they shell out playing the various games, so someone must be getting a hold of all that money and I’ll bet you dollars to doughnuts, or I would if I were a betting man, that whoever’s getting that money sure as hell ain’t spending it on education.

3. I have never eaten caviar. Look, I don’t like chicken eggs; when I was a kid my mother had to pour salt on the morning egg so I could get the thing down my throat without vomiting and now that I am an adult there’s no way in hell I am going to eat another chicken egg straight from the shell as long as I live; so the whole concept of eating fish eggs is, for me, up at whatever the level beyond utterly and mind-blowingly, if there is such a word, disgusting is. Second, let’s face it, caviar are sturgeon eggs and have you ever seen a sturgeon? You can hardly imagine a more ugly looking fish, even if you tried and swallowed a fifth of Scotch to help you. Nothing good can come from something so vile-looking, believe me. You can argue, naturally, that my niece is the product of my brother not the racetrack tout or the Navy lifer, and that this brother is not exactly the spitting image of the Apollo Belvedere, not by any stretch of the unaddled imagination, and that the niece is an altogether lovely blond young moppet who looks an awful lot like a recruiting poster for the Nazi Party when she isn’t busy dying her hair all the colors of the rainbow and several that are not. This otherwise excellent caveat falls short, I fear; the niece’s mother, the ex-sister-in-law, is a nice looking woman when she isn’t being completely stark raving nuts. In the case of the sturgeon, however, both the mother and the father are visually vile beyond the wildest imaginings of anyone with vision corrected by prescription eyeglasses to 20/40, and frankly, I am not sure I would want to deal with a fish that takes the prospect of tens of thousands of its relatives winding up on a cracker with such complete equanimity. Family feeling still counts for something, even in our postmodern world, I think.

2. I have never read The Scarlet Letter all the way through, but then, who has? I think Nathaniel Hawthorne’s literary standing is the product of schoolteachers who would rather bore students to tears with this book than let them read Mark Twain, who is ten times better than Hawthorne could ever hope to be and who is actually funny to boot; The Scarlet Letter, to my mind, fits Twain’s definition of a classic—a book that everyone praises and no one reads—to a tee, and Hawthorne himself is pretty small beer next to Twain. I mean, everyone in the world knew and loved Twain; Ulysses S. Grant chose Twain to publish the old soldier’s Memoirs, a classic of American literature. Hawthorne’s best friend was Franklin Pierce, the fourteenth President of the United States. So maybe Grant was not the best President in American history, but Pierce was the presidential equivalent of the man who wasn’t there in the Ogden Nash poem. And while your high school English teacher might not agree, Twain was, hands down, a much better writer than Hawthorne was, no two ways about it. If you don’t think so, compare Hawthorne’s Young Goodman Brown with Twain’s The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County. If Hawthorne took himself any more seriously he’d have to take a laxative just to pass gas; Twain’s story is still great 140 years after the story first saw print. I just love that frog.

1. I have never done the chicken dance at a Romanian Orthodox wedding reception in East Orange, New Jersey. Well, that almost goes without saying, doesn’t it?


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